SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s exports to China surged to record highs in March as the Asian giant sucked in more iron for its steel industry and lowered barriers to thermal coal shipments amid thawing diplomatic relations.

Data out on Thursday showed exports of Australian goods to China hit A$19 billion ($12.71 billion) in March, a rise of 31% from a year earlier and pipping the previous peak from mid-2021.

The jump helped lift Australia’s total trade surplus to its second-highest on record at A$15.3 billion, a boon to mining profits and tax receipts.

Export volumes of iron ore lumps and iron ore fines to China jumped 24.3% and 17.7% respectively from a month earlier, data from Australian Bureau of Statistics showed.

Shipments of thermal coal to China surged 125% by volume in March from February, offsetting a drop in exports to Japan.

Beijing effectively ended an unofficial ban on Australian coal in January, allowing customs clearance for the first time since 2020 when it launched trade curbs on a series of Australian products as ties froze in the early days of COVID.

Following a leaders meeting late last year, China and Australia agreed last month to resolve a World Trade Organization dispute over Chinese barley tariffs within three months.

However, reviving trade is proving more challenging than stopping it in the first place, Reuters reported.

($1 = 1.4952 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Wayne Cole; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)